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Kids begged for their lives before fatal stabbings, prosecutor says

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Updated: December 3, 2012 6:21AM



Prayers couldn’t save the little boy and girl from Elzbieta Plackowska, authorities said. Nor could begging for their lives.

Even when her 7-year-old son, Justin, told her he loved her, Plackowska never wavered.

“She told Justin he was going to heaven tonight,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in court Thursday. “He begged her to stop and said he loved her.”

Instead, the 40-year-old Naperville woman viciously slashed and stabbed her son dozens of times with a kitchen knife, stopping only when he was dead, Berlin said.

Then, she turned to 5-year-old Olivia Dworakowski — a friend’s daughter whom she was babysitting — and stabbed her again and again as she also begged for her life.

Questioned by Naperville police, Plackowska ultimately offered a stunningly mundane explanation for the slayings: she was angry her husband was spending too much time working and didn’t appreciate her efforts as a wife and mother.

“She thought by killing Justin she would make her husband hurt the way she hurt in their relationship,” Berlin said outside the court after a judge ordered Plackowska held without bail, charged with murdering the children Tuesday night.

Plackowska allegedly targeted Olivia, a cheerful kindergartner who had recently moved with her mother into the Naperville townhouse where she was slain, simply because she had witnessed her young friend’s murder.

“Olivia was there and had seen her kill Justin and she needed to kill Olivia as well,” Berlin contended.

Plackowska’s husband, in a brief interview with the Associated Press, said his wife’s explanation about her marriage frustrations doesn’t make any sense. Artur Plackowski, in fact, said she’d told him that she loved him the day before the slayings.

Artur Plackowski, a long-haul trucker who was working out of state on the night of the killings, didn’t want to talk further, saying he needed to concentrate on giving his son a good funeral.

Elzbieta Plackowska, a petite, 5-foot 4-inch blonde, showed no emotion during Thursday’s hearing, though she lowered her head as Berlin graphically described how the children were killed in the master bedroom.

Justin was stabbed an estimated 100 times, Olivia at least 50 times. Both children’s throats were slashed. Two Dworakowski family dogs also were stabbed to death in the blood-spattered room.

The killings occurred after Plackowska found the children jumping on a bed when they were supposed to be getting ready to go to sleep.

“She told Justin and Olivia to get on their knees and pray,” Berlin recounted.

As the youngsters knelt, Plackowska allegedly attacked them with the knife, unmoved by their prayers or their pleas, Berlin said.

A bent, bloody steak knife was found later in the kitchen sink. A second knife, which also appeared to be stained with blood, was discovered in her car.

Plackowska had been acting erratically in the days before the killings — which occurred shortly after the death of her father in Poland, according to law enforcement sources.

She reportedly had been arguing with her husband about moving back to Poland against his wishes, the sources said, though Berlin declined to comment Thursday on those claims.

After the killings, Plackowska allegedly drove to St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Naperville and tried to enter the locked building. She had taken the children to the church shortly before their murders — and then returned.

Unable to get inside, she left a phone message on an answering machine at the church, Berlin said.

“She said she had done something bad and needed assistance,” Berlin said.

Plackowska was taken into custody late Tuesday night after she arrived at a friend’s Naperville house covered in blood and claiming she had been robbed.

Plackowska had befriended that woman while cleaning her house on Violet Circle and was well-liked in the neighborhood.

That made the charges that she had killed two small children particularly disturbing, said Donna Bertolini as she held her 15-month-old grandson, Vincent.

“I grab onto my grandson and I hold him tight,” Bertolini said.

Just before Plackowska was detained, Olivia’s mother, Marta Dworakowski, had frantically contacted police, telling them she couldn’t get inside her home and couldn’t find her daughter or Plackowska.

Officers broke down Dworakowski’s front door and discovered the two slain children inside.

“This is the most gruesome and horrific crime scene I have seen,” said Naperville Police Chief Robert Marshall, a 30-year police veteran.

Some Naperville police officers had previously met the little girl and were stunned when they found themselves investigating her death, Marshall said.

The youngster inadvertently went into the wrong classroom last August on her first day of kindergarten at Brookdale Elementary School, triggering a search that brought police to the school.

When the little girl was found in another classroom at the school, she quickly charmed the officers who located her, Marshall said.

“She was such a sweet and loving little girl,” Marshall said, pausing briefly as he struggled to control his voice.

Questioned by Naperville police, Plackowska offered several different, shifting accounts of what happened, including first claiming an intruder murdered the children, then saying she killed the youngsters because they “had evil inside of them,” Berlin alleged.

“She was trying to get the evil and devil out of them,” Berlin said.

But Plackowska eventually recanted that claim, telling officers she was upset with her husband.

The charges stunned those who knew her at World Champion Tae Kwon Do in Naperville. Olivia and Justin both took classes there. Workers described it as more than just a school — but also a place where parents gather and get to know each other.

Instructor Tae Hyung Kim and office manager Mary Van Gemmeren said Plackowska always appeared to them to be a kind and even doting mother.

“The mom, she was very nice,” Kim said. “She loved Justin.”

Said Van Gemmeren: “She wasn’t very outspoken, but she seemed very encouraging of her child’s success. She never mentioned going back to Poland, and there was nothing to make us think they were anything but a normal, happy family.”

Van Gemmeren smiled briefly when looking at a photo of Olivia, but then dropped her head into her hands and began to weep.

She said the other students have not yet asked about Justin’s and Olivia’s absences. She sighed and shook her head as she contemplated whatever demons Plackowska might have been grappling with in recent weeks.

“If only she had reached out, this whole thing might not have happened.”

The investigation into the bloody slayings continued after Plackowska’s court appearance. A police officer climbed a ladder from a Naperville truck onto the roof of Dworakowski’s townhouse Thursday afternoon to search for potential evidence.

“There’s nothing specific, we’re just being thorough,” Naperville Police Sgt. Lou Cammiso said of the search.

Plackowska’s court-appointed attorney said the Naperville woman appeared to understand the court proceedings and the charges against her.

“She seemed aware of what was happening around her and she seemed upset,” said Michael Mara, a DuPage County assistant public defender, who declined to comment further.

If convicted of the killings, Plackowska faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Neither Plackowska’s husband nor older son were in court Thursday.

Olivia Dworakowski’s mother and other family members also weren’t present.

Contributing: Mitch Dudek, AP



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